column - Diet: The Word Closest to "Die"

My first book signing went well -- I sold 15 copies of Storm Chaser, the weather was cooler then expected while the rain stayed just to the west, and between chatting with readers and family I was able to watch Albion's imagination at work, as life-size pieces of the Albionopoly board went by on the courthouse square. I'll have some photos up later, but meanwhile, time to turn to the dark side of my life: the dietary side:



SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

            This is a difficult column for me to write, about a frightening – no, terrifying – subject.

            I’m going on a diet.

            Worse than that, I’m actually participating in The Biggest Loser.

            No, no – not that Biggest Loser. I maintain my scorn of, and annoyance at, all those overly dramatic, overly competitive “reality” TV shows. Believe me, if somebody gets in my face and starts screaming at me there will be one of two reactions, neither what that person is expecting but one of them shaky from a legal standpoint. The best way to get me not to do something is to go all drill sergeant on me.

            My full time job is at a law enforcement agency, and it’s considered a good idea for people who have to chase down criminals to be in good shape. The problem is, most jobs in that area are largely sedentary – they require a lot of time sitting in a chair/seat, keeping an eye out, and/or doing paperwork. Every time a lawyer or Congressman sneezes another piece of paperwork gets added to the job description of emergency services personnel, and politicians seem to have a lot of allergies.

            The good news is, people in those jobs are usually competitive, so the idea was hatched to have them compete to see how much weight they would lose. The person who loses the largest percentage of body mass gets a chair, or a new keyboard, or something.

            The bad news is, I’m not competitive. From the first time I was chosen last on the playground and wandered off to read a book instead, I haven’t much cared who wins most competitions. You want proof? I’m a Cubs fan.

            I’m not one of those who chase down criminals. I’m a dispatcher: I send other people to chase down criminals. However, I’m also a volunteer firefighter, and for that job staying in shape is on the important side.

            Besides, it bothers me that I’m no longer thin. I grew up skinny – not slim, skinny. Slim people look good; skinny people look … skinny. I could eat anything. Chili. Candy for breakfast. Dirt off the ground, whatever.

            Then, on my 25th birthday, I woke up, got dressed, and noticed I couldn’t see my belt.

            Seriously, it happened overnight. “Hey – where’d my belt go? I remember putting it on …”

            Part of the problem is that I’d worked a factory job, which I left to take a position at the Noble County Jail. Cue report writing.

            At the factory we would weigh ourselves on the shipping scales, for no other reason than to brag about how thin we got hauling around axles and wheel parts in an un-air conditioned metal building. I routinely weighed 170 pounds.

            Then, one day, after three or four years in the jail and fifteen or so years in dispatch, I had an impulse to weigh myself again. 214 pounds, and that was after a long sleep and stark naked.

            Now, I’m not dumb enough to think I can get back to my early twenties weight. My days of buying jeans with a 32 inch waist are over, but seeing a two at the beginning of my weight had a powerful effect on me. When only a few weeks later the Biggest Loser thing came around, I jumped at the chance. Well, more like I lumbered at the chance.

            My official weight, fully clothed and after a full shift of snacking, was 219 pounds. My goal is to reach 190 pounds by the end of summer, to maintain that weight over the winter, and to get down to around 180 by the end of next summer.

            “But can’t you lose weight during the winter, Mark?”

            No. During winter I can barely keep myself from breaking into a convenience store and snacking myself into a season-long comatose state. If I can keep from gaining anything, it’ll be a miracle worthy of sainthood.

            But I have a shot at losing some over the summer, which I usually did until my metabolism decided I’d grown enough and shut down on me. In fact, for this competition I have two secret weapons, one of them summer related:

            The first is that I’m on vacation. We don’t have money for a long trip, so instead we’re staying home and have a whole list of jobs we want to accomplish and local things we want to do, all of which burn way more calories than sitting in dispatch. Not only that, but when I don’t have to stay up all night on the job I can cut down on my regular supply of Mountain Dew, a necessary caffeine source that also has more calories than an entire freezer at Dairy Queen.

            My first night back from vacation is my birthday, and I’m hoping my depressed state from worrying about age will suppress my appetite.

            My second secret weapon? My fiancĂ©e, who can smell a Snickers Bar from a mile away. Where I may get weak and go for the Moose Tracks ice cream, she’ll be wielding the whip, ready to beat me into dietary submission.

            I mean, she literally owns a whip. And whenever I walk by the refrigerator there she is, standing there, cracking that whip in the air. Then she fixes me some nice parsley and carrot soup and sends me out for a five mile walk.

            So yeah, I have high hopes that my plan will be effective in both reducing my weight and improving my health (they aren’t the same thing, after all). Next time you see me, I may be less of a man.

           Scary, isn’t it?